Have you ever been pushed to point of asking yourself "How did my life come to this"?
I mean your little babies, your sweet cherubs, are adorable when they paint you a gorgeous stick figure picture that says "I love you Mummy!" or when they want to cuddle and kiss you "just because" or when they're so peacefully sound asleep ...
... but when you're trying to get them ready quickly in the morning because you've got an important meeting or when you need them to eat their dinner so they get get off to bed to be up early for the next day or when you've just fallen off to sleep and the crying or screaming or fighting starts, do you sometimes secretly ask yourself "why??!!"
You would never truly want to shove them back up where they came from, but they definitely can stretch your patience and sometimes to breaking point.
Breaking point is when I meet most Mum's for a Meditation Session, they're feeling guilty that they lose their patience at their kids, end up yelling to stop them from watching the TV, stop them from fighting with each other, stop them from crying, screaming, JUST STOP THEM!!!
Mum's come to me to learn how to Meditate because they don't want to be an angry, frustrated mum. They want to teach their children effective ways to communicate in the world, but they also don't want to be walked all over. But how can you maintain balance between being a total utter push-over and a controlling, kill-joy military sergeant?
Other than starting a Mediation Practice, here are FIVE suggestions that I give to Mummy Meditators, to support them in not losing their shit at their kids whilst also maintaining healthy boundaries:
Mindfulness is a practice of meditating with your eyes open. Observing exactly what is happening in the present moment. In traditional sit-cross-legged-with-your-eyes-closed meditation, you often use your breath as the focus to draw you into the present moment. Mindfulness has you replace your breath as the focus with whatever action you are doing. So you can still get stuff done, which is great for Mums, but you're present with it.
So as you go about your busy morning you bring your focus onto exactly what you are doing ie: the dishes, making lunches, or dressing the kids. It is often a skill of a busy Mum to have her next, third, fourth, fifth and tenth action all planned out in her head as she busily cleans up the kitchen, makes breakfast or gets the kids ready. But having all of these future actions swirling around in your head means that you are never really where you are.
Let me explain that in another way; while you're doing the dishes you're thinking about the kids needing to be dressed, whether they're watching the tv instead of dressing themselves, how you've still got to have a shower and what the hell are you going to pack into their lunches. You're not focused on the dishes.
Bringing all of these thoughts of the future into the present moment, while you're washing the dishes, is what creates stress. You can't possibly get all of those actions done in the present moment, but by bringing them into that moment it feels like you really should be doing all of those tasks NOW and this is the beginning of the chaos you feel within. Chaos within equals chaos without and a frustrated, angry, stressed military sergeant Mummy.
So how do you bring Mindfulness into washing the dishes? You stand at the sink and you take one slow long deep breath and then exhale. You feel your hand turning on the tap and you hear the water running into the sink. You feel your hand picking up the detergent and squeezing it into the sink. Your mind tries to jump in with what you've got to do next and you notice that and stop the thoughts mid sentence and let them go. You then feel your hands pick up the dishes, you hear them clink together. You feel the water on your hands as you put the dishes into the sink. You feel the warmth and the slipperiness. Your mind pipes up again but you take a breath and let your thoughts go. You start to feel your body move as you scrub the dishes in circles ...
... get the idea? You make doing the dishes your Meditation. And even just after reading that, do you feel a little less chaotic? A little more centred and present?
But what about all the other stuff you have to do? If you wash the dishes like that it might slow you down when you ALREADY don't have enough time and you might forget all of the things you've still got to get done. Which leads us to suggestion Number Two:
Make it easier for yourself to keep busy, stressful thoughts out of your head and put them into a system. Your multi-tasking mind is truly a great gift but can also be your worst enemy. It is a great gift when you use it in self serving ways to get loads of Mummy shit done but its your worst enemy when it starts using you and you become flustered, stressed and anxious.
So make time to plan your day or week. Now obviously you don't want to be rigid about this because when you've got kids, stuff happens!! But you want all of your tasks out of your head and put somewhere, so you can feel confident that you won't forget anything.
My suggestion is that if you're planning weekly spend some time on a Sunday night writing out all of the stuff you've got in your head that you need to do for the following week. Write a big long list into a note pad. Washing, picking up this, doing that, catching up with them, dishes every night, call her, plan for that meeting, make the lunches daily.
It's also helpful to keep a tiny notepad with you always so you're ready for when you're mind pipes up and says "Oh, and this! You've got to do this! You almost forgot this now didn't you?!" Chuck it in the notepad and then let it go and come back to it on Sunday night.
Collate all of your lists and notes and then put them into a calendar system.
One of my favourite calendar systems is a sticky note system, stuck on a wall with Monday, Tuesday etc. in columns and the sticky notes underneath the days. You could get a big poster calendar, make one up in your notebook or even use online calendars like Google Calendar (I am now graduating my sticky notes for this kind of calendar so that I have it wherever I go AND it also allows me to put in reoccurring tasks like making the lunches daily).
However you do it, the point is to get all of this stuff out of your head so that you can be more present with the action that is right in front of you and you can feel a sense of peace that you won't forget that life threatening task that may blow up the entire planet (this is what the potential of forgetting something feels like to me!)
The amazing thing that also happens when you start to plot out your week with your tasks is that you start to see free space *gasp*!! This is when you can start plotting in "you things" rather than just planning out all "them things". Set some time aside to read a book, or sit in the sun or garden or paint.
Stuff wholly and souly just for YOU!
And as for Mindfulness slowing you down, it doesn't actually, but you're just going to have to try it for yourself, so there!!
Build Your Tribe
You may find then when you are plotting out your week and plans of world domination, you find you have NO FREE SPACE (gasp!) and this can be kinda depressing! But don't go there, here's what to do;
ASK FOR HELP!
Did your palms just start sweating? You know Motherhood was never meant to be done alone. We are meant to live in tribes, with loads of other women helping run after all of our dirty, hairy, little children. But in this day and age, we think that we get some kind of medal for having it all handled on our own. Total BS!
So I'm bringing tribes back and I suggest you do too!!
So here's how to create your own tribe;
Step 1. Write a list of all the peeps you know. Yep everyone!
Family, friends, aunties, next door neighbours, that lovely little old lady you chat to that lives a few doors up, your husband or partner (you might be hesitant writing this one down, but he's still a peep that you know!)
Step 2. Drop any BS stories that you might think you're failing in some way by asking for help or that you're putting people out or that you're too scared that they will say "no" or that you're fine, you're really not that stressed and busy, you can get through this, this is just what a Mum has to do. Allowing yourself to ask for help EVEN if you "don't need it" is an act of self love! If you want to teach your children about self love this is the best way possible, BY EXAMPLE.
Step 3. ASK!! Go on DO IT!! Get out your list of tribe peeps that you prepared earlier and get out your calendar that you also prepared earlier. Link one of the peeps with one of the tasks and ASK! Come on, even if you "don't need help" just ask one tribe member to mind the kids for one arvo, ask another tribe member to help clean your house one week, set up a babysitting tribe where you mind all the kids once a month and pass it around, ask the hubby to cook dinner (come on give it a go, he might just say yes?!)
Step 4. Sit back with your feet up in the sunshine, a cuppa tea in hand, a trashy magazine in the other and bask in the self-love (even if its just an hour) knowing that your tribe members have your back! Let the stress, frustration and anger melt away as you fill your "I'M A GREAT MUM" cup up to the brim.
5. Notice how much more patient you feel and how many more smiles you have by adding one new member to your tribe a week. YES! Choose one new tribe member and one new task a week ... and repeat!
Give Up Resistance
If all else fails, you just can't be mindful, you've decided you're not a planner and your too scardey-cat to ask for help, Number Four is key for you!
Have you heard that old saying "what you resist persists"?
If you feel angry and frustrated and you tell yourself you shouldn't be feeling this way, its not being a "good Mum" to feel this way, you begin to resist your feelings and push them deep into your guts thinking they'll go away, but nope they gets louder! Until you burst. Until you feel the anger and frustration boil up to the surface and it has to come out somewhere. But often, when we've been resisting these feelings for a long time, our anger and frustration come out in deformed, exaggerated, totally dramatic, and "oh my god I wish I didn't say that" kind of ways.
When you feel overwhelmed, not supported and alone and you try to ignore it, "I'm okay, I'm okay, I can handle this on my own. I'll be fine. I've just got to get all this stuff done and not sook about it. I've just got to hold it together otherwise everything will fall apart". When you resist these feelings of overwhelm and loneliness that lie underneath the "holding it together", you may just have them burst out after a few too many wines and you may find yourself weeping, snotting, crying and HEAVING your pain all over a close girlfriend's shoulder, while she asks "Why didn't you ask me for help?"
Your emotions are simply a message in the body that you have a thought about something that needs to be healed, resolved or communicated. They are not wrong, no matter how ferocious they seem. But if these messages are ignored or resisted for long enough they come out in not so helpful ways, or even can manifest as physical illness if suppressed for long enough.
So what to do? How can you both "hold it together" but not resist your emotions?
Yep you guessed it, bring Mindfulness to your emotions. Give up the resistance and be present with them. Really feel them. "Really feeling" your emotions doesn't mean that they will take you over like some evil alien monster that consumes your whole head and face and body. It means noticing when you're feeling anger, taking a moment to check in with that anger, "I'm feeling really angry right now!", "where can I feel that anger in my body?", "It's in my belly", this helps you to observe your anger, be present with your anger, and actually NOT get consumed by the evil alien monster.
Once you can observe and be present with your anger you can then choose what you want to do with that anger. Rather than having this "resisted-anger-alien-monster" choose what to do for you.
You might communicate that anger (in a firm but loving tone) "I am feeling very angry right now, Johnny. I asked you to get dressed and you are still watching cartoons. When I am angry it makes me feel like I want to yell at you. It makes me feel like you're not listening to me and that makes me feel hurt. I want to trust you to listen to me when I ask you to do something. If I can't trust you to listen, I will have to ban cartoons in the morning. I know you love watching cartoons so I don't want to do that. Can I trust you to listen to me in the future?"
Johnny may have his own emotional-alien-monster outburst in response to this. And that's okay! Let him feel it. Help him through becoming mindful of his emotions "Johnny, you seem quite angry. Where do you feel that in your body? Take a deep breath and tell me why that makes you angry. Lets create a solution together."
Yep, you're right. This will probably take more time out of your morning. You might be late. But by golly, wouldn't you have so loved if one of the older peeps in your life took the time to teach you how to observe your emotions and communicate them in healthy ways? What a priceless gift to give to Johnny!
On the other hand, you may want to take some time with your anger to get some insight or perspective from it. You may meditate on your anger first before communicating it at all.
Which ever way you choose, the key here is to not resist it. Start to connect with it, own it and resolve it. Just by simply acknowledging and observing your emotions they may instantaneously be resolved. Often they can come up, peak and then break into whitewash, like a wave.
Connecting with and expressing emotions effectively is one of the most challenging things to learn. It's also one of the most self-loving and other-loving things you can do. It's expressing your truth. Not the ultimate truth of who you are (emotions are always changing and transforming) but the truth of what you are experiencing in that moment. I am feeling sad. I am feeling overwhelmed. I am feeling angry. I am feeling happy. I am feeling loved. I am feeling proud. Communicating your emotions gives the other person an understanding of your experience, which can lead to a deepening connection within your relationships. Even with your kids.
It shows your kids not to shy away from their experience of life, to not run from it or suppress it. Own your emotions. Feel them in your body. Hear their messages. Meditate on them for greater insight. Love ALL of yourself.
when number 4 fails
Start Using the "F" Word
I put in this last little (well its really quite big actually) practice to fall back on if everything just totally sucks and goes hay wire.
And Mummy, when I say this, I mean to forgive YOURSELF.
We humans are not perfect. I'm actually not sure what in the world we can actually describe as "perfect" because everything is different, every thing, every one is unique. Every circumstance is new and fresh. Every reaction is a new choice, a unique choice.
Your choices, your reactions are never wrong or never right, they are unique. And so if one day you do lose your shit at your kids, don't go into judging yourself, measuring yourself against this non-existent "perfect" word, just get present with your choice and reactions and forgive yourself.
Meditate upon these unique choices. Have an intention or affirmation during your meditation "I forgive myself, I forgive my kids, I forgive my circumstance, I forgive" and then just let it go. It's done and dusted. Take the good shit and leave the bullshit. Use your meditation to start creating the choices that you would love to choose in future similar circumstances. Not from a place of "I shoulda done that. Or I shoulda done this. Errgggh I'm so wrong!" but from a place of SELF LOVE.
"I chose this reaction at this unique time, these emotions that I feel are giving my insight into something to be healed, I welcome them. I am committed to loving myself and by example leading my kids to love themselves. Next time I'd like to choose THIS new and unique way of responding to a circumstance like that." And imagine all of the self loving ways you could choose to respond.
If you'd like to read more about forgiveness I prepared this post earlier for you so head on over by clicking here.
So time to give yourself a big old hug, a cuppa tea and a trashy mag.
If you know any other Mummy's who also needs a cuppa and a trashy mag, please share this post with them. And if you'd like a Meditation Session with me, to help give you a kick start to your Meditation practice or even help you work through some of your more challenging emotions, find out more and add me to your tribe by clicking here.
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Love you Mum xx